Buñuelos, queso, and tamales are the Colombian answer to Christmas cookies and apple cider and are an important tradition in Colombian gastronomy.
The typical Colombian Christmas revolves around “novenas” 9 days before the birth of Jesus. Friends, family and neighbors rotate from house to house admiring nativity scenes, but a great deal of the Colombian Christmas revolves around the kitchen and recipes for a delicious Christmas vary by region.
Gastronomic treats include natilla, a sweet milk custard and buñuelos, a cheesy, spongy, crispy round bread. Natilla mimics the Spanish desset of churros. Other popular Chirstmas delights include desamargados, prunes and manjarblanco, a dessert eaten from a shell which takes an entire day of preparation among family and friends. According to reports by El Espectador, fruit desserts stem from a tradition established in Mexico and Chile during the 18th and 19th century , when nuns would prepare desserts and share their recipes with the community.
During holiday celebrations, companies typically invite employees to enjoy local sausages. A typical Christmas dinner will include tamales, but each region has its own special recipe for success. Tamales are a typical tradition in Antioquia, but ingredients vary by region, Costeños use turkey while Santanderenos prefer garbanzos, olives, pork and boiled eggs while Boyacenses fill tamales with peas, ribs, and corn.
Outside of Antioquia, in Sucre, Bolivar, and Cordoba, holiday fare changes. The tamales are filled with rice instead of traditional tamal filling and wrapped in banana leaves. In Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta, the Christmas meal is pork, potato salad with a side of fruit accompanied by coconut rice. The people of Guajira and Cesar prefer goat as the main dish for the holidays.
If you find yourself in Colombia over the holidays, take the time to discover the delights of the Colombian kitchen.